Why Some People Might Have a Hard Time Voting This November

North Carolina voters will have to hustle if they want to cast a ballot in the midterm elections.

(Photo: Nicholas Kamn/Getty Images)

Oct 9, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Nicole Pasulka is a writer and reporter who lives in New York City. She has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and the New York Observer.

Just weeks before the midterm elections, and there’s a spate of bad news about voting rights. The deadline for voter registration in North Carolina is this Friday, but on Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled that the state could ban same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting. This means if people want to vote on Nov. 4, they'll have to scramble to send in their forms tomorrow.

North Carolina is one of 33 states with voter restrictions. Some require voters to show a photo ID. (North Carolina will, too, starting in 2016.) But getting an ID costs money—up to $60 in certain states. In this case, no cash for an ID? No vote.

The stated purpose of laws like these is to prevent voter fraud, but as Mother Jones has reported, voter fraud is not much of a threat. There were only 13 credible cases between 2000 and 2010.

What these laws do is prevent certain groups of people—often minorities, poor people, young people, or the elderly—from voting. Many say it is a calculated effort on the part of Republicans to keep people who might vote against them from being able to cast their ballots.

In a statement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which challenged the law, pointed out that black voters in North Carolina often use same-day registration—more than 70 percent did in 2008 and 2012.

"Eliminating these measures will cause [the] irreparable harm of denying citizens their right to vote in the November election—a right that, once lost, can never be recovered," said Rev. William Barber, president of the NAACP's North Carolina chapter.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also argued that this would disproportionately affect black voters in the state. She agreed with the appeals court that ruled that the law "risked significantly reducing opportunities for black voters to exercise the franchise" and was in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan congressional investigative agency, backs up these arguments. The GAO found that in two states with tougher voting laws, voter turnout was between 2 percent and 3 percent less than in states without restrictions. This reduced turnout was more significant for people ages 18 to 23, and the overall reduction for black voters was between 2 percent and 4 percent greater.

Some people are taking these restrictions—and the thought of what they could mean for the midterm elections—pretty hard. In this video for the American Civil Liberties Union, Lewis Black, for one, seems pretty freaked out: